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Pirates

Huntington, Bucs might not be done dealing

| Thursday, Jan. 14, 2010

BRADENTON, Fla. — Now that the deal for free-agent outfielder Ryan Church is complete, don't be surprised if the Pirates swing more minor deals — a trade, another free-agent addition — in the next few days.

As Church's one-year, $1.5 million contract was being announced Wednesday, general manager Neal Huntington was flying to Paradise Valley, Ariz., to attend a two-day owners' meeting.

It's the first time all 30 GMs were asked to be at the owners' confab, and there's always some wheeling and dealing when so many front-office folks gather.

Huntington remains on the prowl for bullpen help. That might necessitate opening a spot on the 40-man roster, either by trading or releasing someone now on the list.

The roster was filled by the addition of Church, a 31-year-old lefty hitter.

"He has the skills and tools to be a valuable player off the bench and could play regularly if the situation so dictates," Huntington said.

The GMs were invited to Arizona to provide input for commissioner Bud Selig's newly formed panel to address on-field issues. Another item at the meetings will be the ongoing franchise sale talks between Pittsburgh attorney Chuck Greenberg and Texas Rangers owner Tom Hicks.

» Outfielder Jose Tabata was a no-show at the start of minicamp Wednesday because of visa problems. Reliever Tyler Yates, who is on the mend from Tommy John surgery, still is at home in Hawaii and will arrive in Bradenton closer to the start of spring training. Righty Jimmy Barthmaier, who had Tommy John surgery last May, is in camp but not throwing.

» Right-hander Jose Ascanio also has visa issues and is expected to arrive today or tomorrow. Ascanio is recovering nicely from arthroscopic shoulder surgery but is not yet ready to throw off a mound. "It could be late in spring training or into the (regular) season," manager John Russell said. "We'll have to see how the strength comes back."

» Russell said no Pirates personnel were caught in Tuesday's massive earthquake in Haiti. "I talked with some of our guys who are from the Dominican (Republic) and they said there wasn't much effect there," Russell said. Haiti and the Dominican are adjacent.

» The top four pitchers in the starting rotation — Paul Maholm, Zach Duke, Ross Ohlendorf and Charlie Morton — threw off the mound simultaneously yesterday morning. Also pitching side sessions were Kevin Hart, Daniel McCutchen, Donnie Veal, Jeff Karstens, Brad Lincoln and relievers Evan Meek, Joel Hanrahan and Brian Burres. That group will throw again tomorrow.

» Javier Lopez, a free-agent pickup who should be the top lefty option in the bullpen, will throw off the mound today. Also scheduled to throw are Virgil Vasquez, Justin Thomas, Jack Taschner, Vinnie Chulk, Chris Jakubauskas, Bryan Morris, Ron Uviedo, Steven Jackson, Anthony Claggett, Jeremy Powell, Ramon Aguero and Jeremy Powell.

DIGITS

.316 — Ryan Church's career batting average in 21 plate appearances at PNC Park.

14 — Pitchers, of the 28 in minicamp, who were not with the Pirates a year ago.

QUOTABLE

"It looks where a lot of guys already are where they would be at the start of spring training." — Pirates manager John Russell, talking about the players' physical conditioning.

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